Therapeutic communication: What is it?
When you are embarking on a nursing career, you will need to answer a lot of questions. What will you need to study, and how long will it take to get qualified? How will you manage challenges and risks in the hospital or clinic? What will the process of learning how to do important things, such as manage medication, entail?
At this stage in your career, you might not be thinking just yet about the best method of communicating with patients, but getting it right is of vital importance. Here is a look at what therapeutic communications is and how you can put it into practice as your nursing career grows and evolves.
What is therapeutic communication?
Therapeutic communication is the practice of looking at a patient as a whole person with both a physical and mental side and tailoring interactions in a way that meets these needs. All too often, healthcare professionals are trained in a way that encourages them to zoom in on the physical side of things, such as administering medicine safely and attending promptly and with compassion to a patient’s physical needs.
Although these factors are certainly important, communication should be given equal importance. Communicating therapeutically is all about ensuring that the needs of the patient’s mind are met, in addition to the needs of their body. It’s about building a rapport with the patient in a way that turns communication into a two-way street.
It is also about making sure that the patient feels they can speak up. Sadly, many of the worst medical scandals that have taken place around the world in recent years have involved situations in which patients or their loved ones felt unable to communicate about the experience that they were having. There is certainly an ethical aspect to therapeutic communication.
How can you do it?
If you are feeling confused about therapeutic communication as a new practitioner in the field, don’t worry. There’s plenty to learn, and you’ll have lots of opportunities to pick up these skills as time goes on. Therapeutic communication is a crucial part of any syllabus at the top online nursing programs in Texas. These programs describe themselves as offering “person-centered compassionate care”, which reflects and illustrates the overarching principle of therapeutic communication: the patient should experience control over the direction that their care takes.
If you are still struggling to wrap your head around it, you can always start from the point of view of medical ethics. Take, for example, the medical ethics principle of autonomy. This ethical point says that a practitioner should always ensure the client is fully involved in making decisions about the care they receive. When applied to therapeutic communication, this might look like a practitioner asking a patient to describe what their ideal care model might look like, then factoring that information into decisions during care meetings with other medical staff in the ward.
It is also possible to borrow some practices from the field of psychotherapy and apply them to your work in a hospital or clinic. One way that a nurse can do this is by asking open-ended questions. If a patient appears distressed but is unwilling to divulge what is causing the distress and why, a nurse could ask them a question like, “Where does it hurt?”. This is often a more productive approach than asking closed questions, such as, “Are you in pain?”
A question like the latter allows the person to give a simple “yes” or “no” answer, but an open question, like the former, allows and encourages them to describe what they are experiencing and put it into their own words. This, in turn, helps the healthcare practitioner gain a more vivid understanding of the patient’s perceptions and act accordingly thanks to this two-way, interactive approach.
Overall, it is clear that therapeutic communication is essential if you’re moving into nursing. While it may not seem obvious exactly what this is and why it’s needed at first, any time spent in placements or practicals will show that interactive conversations in which the patient can speak up and open-ended questions are an integral part of the process of effective nursing. Therefore, it is vital to be sure that the nursing course you choose is the right one and puts therapeutic communications at its heart.